PEFC suspends assessment of Myanmar forest certification system

On the eve of the United Nations International Day of Democracy, the assessment of the Myanmar forest certification system has been suspended with immediate effect due to concerns that Myanmar-based stakeholders are unable to participate in the assessment process.

Open, transparent, and meaningful stakeholder engagement is core to PEFC processes, which includes the ability of all participants to speak freely without fear of reprisal. Information received following the launch of the global public consultation, and integral part of the assessment process, indicates the risk of potential or actual self-censorship or self-imposed restriction by Myanmar-based stakeholders.

The recent arrest of Kyaw Min Htut, an environmental and democracy activist and former civil society representative on the Myanmar Forest Certification Committee, exemplifies the restrictions to speak freely.

Police reports state Kyaw Minn Htut was detained under Article 50 of the country’s Counterterrorism Law, and allege he supported and gave financial help to groups classified as terrorists by the military junta, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). Kyaw Min Htut was also a member of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade multi-stakeholder group and a member of the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability network.

In addition, officials of the Building and Woodworkers Federation of Myanmar (BWFM) have pending warrants of arrest, their passports declared void by military junta and its local member unions are harassed by state security forces to disassociate from BWFM. BWFM is a recognised stakeholder in the MFCC and an affiliate of Building and Woodworkers International (BWI), a PEFC International Stakeholder member.

The assessment and thus the endorsement process of the Myanmar forest certification system is therefore suspended until further notice.

PEFC Board of Directors continues to monitor the situation and will review it at its next meeting in October 2021.

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